Category Archives for "Self Kindness"
Anxiety is not a word I've ever used to describe how I'm feeling. Nervous before presenting at a conference, perhaps. Stressed before exams. Shy at big gatherings and networking events. But not anxious.
Sarah Wilson's (affiliate) First, we make the beast beautiful is a memoir of Sarah's experience of anxiety amongst a seemingly isolated childhood and autoimmune conditions. I was expecting to feel immersed in her story, but her storytelling wove quickly between her experiences, scientific studies related to anxiety, and strategies she has tried. Her voice - both in writing and speaking - has a pragmatic tone and while engrossing it spoke more to my mind than my heart.
This is likely to be largely due to my lack of identification with anxiety. But I found myself expanding in understanding of the experiences of those I care about who live with this every day. And even those of us who experience anxiety in isolated events can benefit from understanding these experiences more, and knowing we are not alone in them.
During the course of reading the book, I was told a story of a devastating event involving a baby. My fear came up so strongly, that it was clear my vigilance as a mother exists just under the level of anxiety. People have quite rightly commented that I'm a "relaxed" mother - but I'm a mother also who understands the fear of the words "What if...?" Having this experience gave me the realisation of here anxiety exists under the radar in my life, and I felt greater awareness of my emotions in general in listening to the experiences of others.
We can all benefit from living more comfortably with our emotional states. The idea I wish we all knew is this - what if, regardless of any diagnosis or issue we may have - we saw ourselves as not needing "fixing". Rather, applying understanding and compassion to ourselves and finding ways to live with ourself.
Sarah describes a lesson from one of her supports, Eugene Veshner, a hypnotist. He says we can't get rid of habits, we build new ones instead. I am a firm believer in this. Eugene explained to Sarah that as we develop a habit it creates a neural pathway. A new habit must be repeated many times to form a new pathway, which will eventually be stronger than the previous habit we are trying to replace. This is an idea I have found to be true when it comes to creating new core beliefs. Sometimes in life we make the alarming discovery that we have been living according to a harmful belief. Instead of trying to just nor believe that thing, I find it useful instead to build up repetition of a healthier belief while allowing ourselves to hold the old belief more loosely.
As well as this gem, here are the other strategies I love and find useful from the book:
So I'd like to hear from you - is anxiety something you experience? Which strategies do you find the most useful? And which ones will you try?
Ever tried writing a gratitude journal? It's a beautiful idea - every day, take a few minutes to write down 3 things you're grateful for. After all, it is not happiness which necessarily makes us grateful; but rather gratitude which makes us happy.
The struggle I have with this practice is that I am a person who lives very much in my mind. For much of my life it has seemed that my body is barely attached to my awareness at all, and my emotions rise to my conscious noticing from time to time before receding beyond my thoughts again. This means that I sit there writing the things I think I must be grateful for, rather than the things I feel grateful for. I fill reams with these lists, while remaining unmoved myself.
If you find that this familiar gratitude practice is enough for you to increase your mindfulness and happiness, then that is wonderful. Stick to it. But if journalling feels like a chore or writing lists keeps you stuck in your mind, then consider this simple variation on gratitude.
This practice of not just identifying our gratitude but also expanding and expressing it ensures that you get out of your head and into the emotion of gratitude. The side effect? You get to make someone else's day too.
Let me know in the comments - how will you express your gratitude today?
When my unborn child's heart stopped beating I remember a scream echoing through the clinic. Vaguely I was aware that it was my scream, but all I knew was that I had to get home. Get to my room. Crawl into bed.
I stayed there for ages. Maybe it was two weeks - I have no idea. Sometimes there was a gap in the silence where I raged, and had to trust my husband to keep us both safe. Mostly, it was silent.
A few people came over. I am not even sure if I said anything that made sense, but I was deeply grateful and it was a relief to feel gratitude amongst waves of anger, bitterness and grief. Many people didn't come over. For a long time this seemed as horrifying as anything else.
But then something else happened. The space and quiet led me to a deep place of meditation, prayer and connection that I've carried with me since. New insights about my life and new dreams began to emerge. When we're not spreading ourselves too far, we have the chance to dig deeper.
Sometimes you may find yourself in the midst of the unthinkable, and feeling alone. It can feel like trying to remember which way to swim while being thrown by a massive wave. We would do anything for something to hold onto until the waves subside enough to swim again.
If this is you, my heart is full of love for you. And know that there will be something to hold on to. We can't always rely on people knowing how to be there for us, or having the emotional bandwidth for it. Since my experience I've seen many people comment that they "declutter" friends who don't show up for them. I think there is room for a different approach.
When we are suffering or struggling, people will often say to us "Take care of your self". But what does that even mean? Here are the ways I offer you to provide yourself the care you need:
It's easy to feel disillusioned if you thought your friends would turn up in the tough times and they don't. And when you reflect on some of these friendships you may see that it was unhealthy or one-way. But don't assume your friends don't care about you. Keep in mind that people show their love in different ways, and some don't know how to give you the support you need.
I hope you find something on this page to hold on to. Let me know in the comments below which strategy you'll be trying, or perhaps a new way you might show up for a friend.
Sugar scrub is the easiest thing in the world. And the cheapest. It also leaves skin silky smooth and moisturised.
The principles of making a sugar scrub is just to combine oil and sugar in equal proportions. Adjust to preferred consistency. And if you want to get fancy, natural spices or essential oils - provided they're safe to use directly on the skin - add extra benefits and a great fragrance without the hormone disruption of the artificial stuff.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup macadamia oil
1 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (warming and cleansing)
Combine the oil and sugar in a bowl. Adjust the sugar: oil ratio to your preference.
Add the vanilla and cinammon.
Place scrub into clean glass jar.
To use: apply and scrub over body before shower or bath. Please note: this scrub is messy so use IN shower or bath! Also, it makes surfaces slippery so take care.
Wash as normal. Enjoy your glowing skin!
They say when our heart is broken, it either expands, or contracts.
When I lost three pregnancies, one after the other, against a backdrop of work stress and certain other disillusionments... my heart contracted.
It is okay, despite what they say, to have a contracted heart. It feels safer, when we withdraw into ourselves. This is the only thing that matters for a while, when it feels as if your skin has been peeled away, and the world is made of broken glass.
But it's a way of being geared towards surviving, not thriving. There comes a time when Life asks us to slowly nurse our own wounds rather than using them as armour. Eventually, we have an emotional skin again. Slowly, the edges retreat and the world gets a little bit softer. Not totally. Maybe never again. But a little, and it's enough.
Later, it's possible to feel joy again. In my case, joy is my normal state these days (knocks on wood). My heart softened and expanded almost without my noticing.
Just the other week, my little one, Ava Grace, defied her afternoon nap. This is not unusual. Also common - I snuggled her into her car seat, cranked an audiobook, and we began to drive.
I have the great joy and fortune of living beside a beautiful forest. I drive, and listen to something inspiring, until Ava sleeps. Then I park and soak in the beauty, and sometimes write or work or meditate.
On this day, I listened to Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed. A collection of letters written to her when she was the agony aunt, Dear Sugar. It was read by her, which made it even better. As I drove amongst giants of trees softened by ferns and a magical winter's mist, I became aware of my own gratitude, compassion... my own heart.
I listened to the story of Johnny, afraid to tell a woman he loved her. And I listened to Cheryl - or Sugar, as she was known - reply with the story of how her mother's last word to her was "love"... and how her mother died alone, later that night. My heart cracked wide, and the light shone through. And when the next letter was written by a woman stuck in the numbness of her own grief after losing her baby girl when she was 6 months pregnant, my heart shattered and all the commonality of our humanity hit me in the space it left behind.
You see I realised that when we feel our own pain, we feel alone. But when we can bear witness to somebody else's, we know how connected we truly are. It didn't matter that one story was of fear of love, one the numbness of grief, another the shame of a more covert fantasy life, and another still of the hurt of rejection by family for identifying as gay. Because beneath the details, they were all the same. People wanting to be loved, reassured and witnessed. Like all of us.
Cheryl met each with her own rawness and softness and grit, her own love and pain. And it tapped into old memories, but more still it tapped into the compassi0n that unites us. Listening to her fully witness each person, let me feel seen and simultaneously helped me to see them too. It's not often a book moves me to tears. On this day I didn't so much cry as crack open, and the tears that flowed in that misty forest were at once mine, and Cheryl's, and yours.
So remember, we are all in this thing we call Life together, and allow your heart to crack open as you reach out with your rawness, broken pieces and above all, with your Light.
And if you do read or listen to (affiliate) Tiny Beautiful Things, please drop me a comment and tell me what struck a chord with you.
There are certain types of grief our society handles well. And certain needs for support that we are good at recognising. That doesn't make these types of life events less painful. But a good part of our ability to be resilient is how supported we feel, so it's incredibly important.
And some life events are not recognised as times of immense pain or grief. Those with "hidden" illness or disability are met with judgement and impatience at times when they deserve and need the compassion and gentleness we are better at showing someone with cancer, or someone who has a visible paralysis. And those who experience a loss not acknowledged by their community sometimes deal with isolation in addition to their grief.
All of these societal factors affect how we cope with our burdens, and how we feel we are able to let go of the person we were before the spiritual forest fire struck.
A few years ago, I experienced three miscarriages in a row. The second one in particular was horrific to me. It dragged on for months, required two separate surgeries, and emotionally I was devastated. Some people visited. Some told me to medicate my grief. Others told me to get over it. And some seemed to disappear for a while (or forever). Someone told me that when we go through grief of any kind, we are always surprised by who is there for us, and who is not.
The one thing that is clear - I am not the person I was before these events. Before I was someone with a healthier body, an assumption that the people in my life would completely buffer any difficulty that ever came my way, and the cheerful belief that motherhood would happen easily. All of that has gone. I am a mother now, but the sacredness of my daughter within my heart reminds me that there is never again an assumption of how motherhood will be. For a few years I was bitter about the loss of all these expectations towards others and the "why me" force was strong within me! Now I've softened again, but this time with discernment. And a bit more resilience. And I get "it" in a way I didn't before.
So when I was cocooned away with my little mother on a holiday in the Sunshine Coast, and I stumbled on the book (affiliate) Letting Go of the Person You Used To Be by Lama Surya Das, I had to buy it. And then I hid it away and "forgot" to read it for a few years. You know.
But recent times have been healing and whole and happy, and I've been reading this book at last. Here are my thoughts and what I'm learning:
I would suggest this book to someone who has gone through their own personal spiritual forest fire, and has reached the point where they would like to make sense of their experiences, name and process their losses, and practice mindfulness to begin a new part of their lives. You can buy the book through my affiliate links at Amazon or Book Depository. If you are still raw or traumatised from experiences, perhaps do what I did and hide the book away for a while. Be ever so gentle with yourself. And this book, and the rest of your life, will be waiting for you when you're ready.
If you would like support in processing past events of your life and establishing new ways of living in the world and constructive thoughts and practices to channel your lived experience, I'd warmly encourage you to consider my transformational mentoring packages.
Now I'd love to hear from you - what has been essential in healing from loss and letting go of the person you used to be? Let me know in the comments. And know that love is within you.
Growing up, I loved to sneak a peek at my older sisters' fashion mags, and by the time I was a teenager I was voraciously reading my own with friends at school. Every month taught me a new way to be pretty or lose weight or be more popular or stylish.
The problem was, these instructions were built on a broken foundation. The paradigm was wrong - we were taught that our bodies were ornaments and the goal was to be "perfect", whatever that meant.
Years later, some of the magazines caught onto a trend of teaching us to love our bodies. The way to do this was to accept that only 8 people in the world could look like supermodels, the rest of us must just "disguise our flaws" and "focus on our good points". Besides, we were told, it is okay to have curves because men like them! This created a double whammy of telling us we're only acceptable if men deem us to be, and divides us according to our build.
Unfortunately this still works on a belief that our female bodies are wrong and broken, and we must just make the best of them that we can. Or worse, that approval of ourselves needs to be based on whether we have earned the approval of men.
But the problem is not our bodies. The problem is that we are conditioned from birth to think our bodies are ornaments to be made into an accepted standard of beauty, that other people - particularly men - have the right to judge us based on our appearance, and that we are fighting a losing battle trying to achieve a body type that we just weren't born with. It doesn't matter whether the magazines are telling us to "lose 3 dress sizes by lunchtime" or "men want you to be curvy" - we're still being dictated to for our self worth.
So how do we fix this conundrum? As Albert Einstein famously said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them".
It's clear then - we can't fix this by telling ourselves that despite being size 16 in a world that wants us to be a size 10, we at least have a pretty manicure! What we need is a whole new way of thinking about our bodies. We need a paradigm shift where this malignant messaging is shown for what it is, and where it no longer makes sense.
So work with the following paradigm shifts. They are uncomfortable. But when they really drop into place, a whole new sense of freedom exists where all this conditioning just doesn't apply. Here they are:
When we view our body as an ornament, we believe our worth and value is tied up in how attractive we can make our body, according to cultural standards, men's judgements and other external messaging. For example, I used to have the belief that for my body to be acceptable it must be size 10, tanned, with shiny straight hair and aged from 16-25 years old. This is a broken paradigm because the vast majority of us will receive the unconscious belief that we were born into a body that isn't good enough. We may have some of the attributes we think we need, but always be aspiring for the ones we perceive as lacking, and therefore never truly satisfied. And even those who do fit the preferences of the culture they live in will probably face the same self doubts when they look in a mirror and realise their body is ageing. And so the diet industry, the anti-ageing industry, the fashion and beauty industries keep us hooked as we are told "You're not quite good enough, but don't worry, with our product you can be!".
The new paradigm: Your body is a sacred vessel that contains YOU, your life, your spirit and your unique expression. In this paradigm EVERY body is perfect, because every body provides us a vessel within which to live. We laugh with our body. We pursue our dreams with our body. We hold our loved ones with our body. We gaze on beauty with our body. Our body is not an inanimate object to decorate into beauty, it is a vessel with life breathed into it, for our self expression in this life time whatever that may be.
Modern medicine has extended our life and given us new expectations of our bodies. We don't expect to be struck down "before our time", or to have our lives changed by our health in ways we didn't control. Even when we have colds, we often reach for a medicine to stop the symptoms, so we can "get on with it". But the gifts have brought a shadow with them.
We've begun to see the symptoms of illness as our body letting us down. When we have a headache, we feel attacked by our body. When we have a chesty cough and runny nose we feel frustrated by our body. We think our body is doing this to us. In truth, symptoms are mechanisms the body uses to correct an imbalance or fight an invasion. They are our body's attempt to save us.
That headache is the body trying to tell us our blood sugar isn't right, or that we need to drink some water or get some sleep. The runny nose may seem gross, but it's the mechanism our body has for removing a virus so that our body can heal. This is NOT a post about not using conventional medicines - there is a time and place for them and we must each make that decision for ourselves as adults.
However, when we operate from a paradigm of "illness is my body attacking me", we can see our body as the enemy, something we need to "control" or combat. And regardless of our state of physical health, being on a different team to our body is damaging on a deep level. I have been pretty healthy for most of my life, but I experienced this following a series of very traumatic miscarriages and infertility treatment. I was angry at my body and its shortcomings for some time.
Eventually, when I went into a deep meditation with the intention of forgiving my body for letting me down, I instead experienced this paradigm shift and realised it had never let me down at all. Sure, things had happened TO my body I didn't want, but my body had only ever done its best.
The new paradigm: Your body is always doing everything in its power to keep you alive and well. This is medical fact; the term for it is "homeostasis", a phenomenon in our body where almost every function and chemical reaction has signals that trigger our brain to let it know if that function is within a normal range or not. From there, the body will try to course correct. It may release different hormones, store excess energy out of the way as fat, make us thirsty so we drink, make us blow our nose or sneeze to remove a pathogen. Sometimes our bodies can get things back on track, sometimes they can't. But it will always, always try its best. So this means your body is on your team. It is your best friend - nothing on earth will fight for your wellness like your body. So wherever your state of health may be, approach it with your body as ally. Because you're in this together.
This last paradigm is possibly the most subtle and insidious. We are raised with mixed messages over who has rights or a say over our body. The #MeToo movement has certainly brought visibility to this issue. But confusion over who has a say can happen within longterm partnerships and marriages. Women often feel a sense of obligation to a partner, perceiving a context of what the partner "needs", which shifts the conversation to whether we are a good wife or partner by how much we look after the "needs" of our partner. If we reframe this to a more accurate word - such as "wants" or "preferences" the obligation is diffused and we can view the situation with more clarity.
Another place this happens is in the healthcare system. I have worked my whole career within this system, so I am not about to bite the hand that has fed me. I don't suggest that Dr Google knows more than an actual doctor, or that remedies with no research should be preferred over scientifically backed remedies in critical situations. However, we are taught to "obey" healthcare professionals without question. It's worth noting that as amazing as healthcare professionals can be, they are humans who sometimes make mistakes. Almost all treatments carry some risks and potential side effects. And the person who has to live with the results is you.
The paradigm shift: Your body is yours and yours alone. Reclaim your power and your body. Yes, be compassionate and allow your partner to be seen and heard and validated - but not at the expense of retaining the power of choice over your body. And accept that when you visit a doctor they bring expertise and experience to your situation and take that into consideration when you make your healthcare choices. But ask questions, and find healthcare professionals that you trust and feel respected by.
I'd like to hear from you - which of these paradigm shifts can impact the relationship you have with your body? Which do you already live by? Let me know in the comments.
Many of us as women are brought up to be compassionate towards others. By the time we are adults, this comes naturally to us.
Compassion for others is wonderful both in creating a kinder world and for our own happiness, but the cornerstone piece is missing - we need to begin with compassion towards ourselves.
Without self-compassion we can feel like we never give enough, we become vulnerable to the judgements of others and it is all too easy to crumble if we feel not good enough in our efforts. We dim our lights out of fear of our imperfections shining through.
When we stumble and fall, if we don't meet the expectations of others, if we realise we are flawed and human, it is our self-compassion that allows us to nurse our wounded parts, dust ourselves off and continue shining our light in this world.
So practice kindness towards yourself. When you have one of those moments - I am having one even as I write this - don't berate yourself. Consider how you'd respond to your dearest friend.
"Don't worry, you're human like everyone else. Learn and keep going. The world needs your light".
If you struggle with this, then begin here.
When we are all kind to ourselves in the privacy of our own minds and hearts, it becomes natural to be kind to others. It's not by "being better" we develop self worth, it's by being gentler in the midst of our own frailties and strengths.
Shine on, sister.
I'd like to hear from you - how will you be gentle with yourself today?
I have a beautiful journal, in which I write letters to my daughter Ava Grace. I've been doing this since I was pregnant with her. I tell her the story of her birth, my hopes for her, how we chose her name and of course how dear she is to us.
Recently I knew I must write her all the things I want to make sure she will always know, her whole life. As I wrote I realised they were things we all need to remember, so this specific letter is for you, too. In case someone forgot to tell you. Or if you stopped believing it. These words are written through me but not by me - they are words from your loved ones, from your truest self, from Life, to You. Please keep this letter where you can refer to it whenever you need to.
There are certain things in life it is so important that you know, and always remember. These things are few and simple, but essential. Here they are:
You are SO loved
You are deeply protected
You are divinely guided
You are seen
You are heard
You have unique gifts
The world needs you
You are here for a specific purpose
Your life matters
I love you.
Let me know below - -what will you be adding to your letter?
And if you would like more heart healing, then sign up below for my free gift to you, 7 steps to self love. xo
My childhood summers were carefree ones. I stayed with my best friend at her beach house, and we spent our days running barefoot to the beach, taping (yep, it was that long ago!) songs from the radio and learning to bodyboard.
It took some practice. The waves were big enough to dump us, leaving us disorientated and not knowing which way was up. We had to learn to anticipate the wave as it came, to know when to jump on, and to paddle hard enough to stay afloat.
Overwhelm can feel like this. It's certainly a powerful enough experience to completely disorientate us, to leave us gasping and not sure how we might get through to the other side. But like a wave, we can learn to ride it. I've been dumped by the waves of overwhelm before, and know that enough waves one after the other can lead to longer term stress, anxiety and burnout. Learning to ride overwhelm is pivotal to staying afloat in our lives.
First, we need to become better at seeing it coming. For me, it creeps in by stealth through coping strategies like escapist TV/ social media, craving junk foods or feeling tired at the thought of what I feel I need to do. I now know these are my warning signs, and use them as a cue to cut back on projects and expectations, prioritise sleep and keep life simple.
Next, we learn our limits. I used to say that I had only 2 states at work - boredom or overwhelm. I always wanted more projects, more working parties and more clients to stay engaged and excited. But it was the finest line between engagement and becoming stressed and counter-productive. Too many projects and this adrenaline-junkie approach to life is intertwined with stress. The answer is not boredom! It lies in engaging more deeply rather than more broadly. Instead of flitting over 100 projects, deeply connect to a handful. Be present and practice mindfulness to draw fulfilment from life, rather than the pursuit of shiny objects.
We practice managing the expectations of others. I used to assume that those in both my personal and professional life expected me to bend over backwards for them, the way I expected this from myself. So imagine my surprise after a period of grief and burnout, when I set new limits in all my key relationships and no one battered an eyelid. Try it for yourself, you'll be amazed how the world keeps turning as before.
And finally, I surgically removed the word "should" from my vernacular. True, it tends to grow back from time to time, but I just cut it out more vigorously than before. If you take nothing else, try at least this. A large part of overwhelm lies within our own thoughts. When we remove the "shoulds" from our thinking, we allow ourselves room to fall short, to breathe, to be gentle to ourselves.
When we do these things, we see the wave becomes smaller and more manageable as it rolls towards us. We find strength to paddle, and may even enjoy the ride.
If you'd like to reclaim your time and learn to surf the overwhelm, I have a great 3 day video program, completely free for you below. And I'd love to hear from you - which of these strategies will you be using to surf the overwhelm? Let me know below! xo